Al-Azhar Park

sights / Parks & gardens

Al-Azhar Park information

Location
Cairo , Egypt
Address
Sharia Salah Salem
Telephone
+20 2510 7338
More information
www.alazharpark.com
Prices
admission Mon-Wed/Thu-Sun E£5/7
Opening hours
10am-10pm
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Cairo’s eastern horizon changed substantially when this green space opened in 2005. With funds from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, what had been a mountain of garbage, amassed over centuries, was transformed into the city’s first (and only) park of significant size. A profusion of gardens, emerald grass, even a lake (part of a larger public water-supply system) cover the grounds, while ambient Arabic music drifts softly from speakers and fountains bubble in front of sleek modern Islamic architecture. It’s most fun on weekends, when families make a day out with picnics.

Bab al-Mahruq

Depending on your outlook, the park is a gorgeous respite or a weirdly isolated elite playground. This was offset slightly when the Bab al-Mahruq entrance, through a medieval gate in the old Ayyubid walls, finally opened in 2009. This granted easier access for residents of the lower-income Darb al-Ahmar district. You can enter here before 6pm, but after dark you can only exit through the main park gates on Sharia Salah Salem (taxis wait but overcharge; microbuses go to Ataba for E£2).

Technically entry at Bab al-Mahruq is only E£2, but you’ll have a hard time convincing the guard you deserve the subsidised ‘downhill’ price. While you’re down here, check out the ongoing excavations of the Ayyubid walls – one major achievement was the rediscovery of Bab al-Barqiya, which had long ago been lost under the trash heap.

Restaurants

In addition to a couple of small cafes and the open-air theatre El Genaina, there’s an excellent restaurant here, Citadel View, capitalising on the park’s views across the medieval city and beyond. For a less substantial investment, Alain Le Notre serves salads, wraps and ice cream, and the Lakeside Restaurant , on the other side of the park, serves more modest food like fuul (fava bean) and Lebanese manaeesh (flat bread).